Tell us what we need to know about your work at Habitat: some nuts and bolts and how you think we are doing good for the community.
My title is Vice President of Homeowner Services and our department interacts with current and future homeowners on various levels. We coordinate our Habitat Homebuyer information sessions, conduct the application process, and coordinate the onboarding of homeowners. We coordinate the closings and educational workshops. We also work with the Habitat communities on community issues and neighborhood concerns.
Can you expand on the education part of your position? Why do we take responsibility for educating our homebuyers and homeowners and their families about homeownership?
Habitat is a construction company and a mortgage company, but we also provide “housing counseling.” In the last 3 years, we wanted to educate homeowners about the benefits of homeownership and building equity. Another part is the responsibility of being a homeowner; this is a very different from renting and that distinction is important. There is a civic responsibility of being a good neighbor and a good community partner. The education portion is so important. This is an asset will allow the family to build wealth and help close the wealth gap.
What are some of the tensions that you run into as the person who has to navigate all the family, neighborhood, and community dynamics?
I think some homeowners worry about “how am I going to be a good neighbor” in an already existing community. We try to have HOA trainings for people to understand the relationships within neighborhoods and how to be an active member of your neighborhood. There are tensions throughout the homeownership process, but I think we are doing a good job of bringing folks together into a community.
The Habitat “program” has some great outcomes for individuals and families. What are the positive outcomes that you see most clearly?
I think it boils down to the safe affordable housing that Habitat offers in Orange County. Some people may say that we are only assist a small number of families. I think we are providing a quality product and maybe a small number of families will benefit every year, but those are families would otherwise have continued to live in overcrowded or overpriced conditions.
How does your faith come with you when you come into the office at Habitat?
For most of my professional career I have worked on behalf of other people. Habitat is a continuance of what I have always done. Housing is such an important factor of everyday living. For me it is faith in action. Living out the Gospel. People used to say that this kind of work was pouring yourself into others.
There is an increased awareness of Social and Racial injustices, where do you see Habitat’s work intersecting with these inequities?
We work with a broad array of races, nationalities, and ethnic groups and provide a service that helps folks bridge wealth gap and income inequality. I think without a safe, affordable home some families may not be able to build wealth, or they would live an unsafe place and those issues could lead or perpetuate racial and ethnic inequalities.
What does the faith community in Orange County need to know about housing and how people are living?
I think sometimes when people hear “Habitat,” they think “vulnerable populations” that need housing, but the reality is that Habitat homeowners are just regular people. They work hard. They work for Duke and UNC. They are a part of our community, and they live in overcrowded and overpriced housing that they desperately want to get out of. In the last two or three years we received a great deal of applications for very few homes. This summer we had 60+ applications for one single home. And the overwhelming bulk of these people are working jobs that I think two decades ago, they would have afforded a house without anyone’s assistance. Now they are looking to Habitat to help them afford a home. If you are going to live in a place where there are jobs, then you need to be able to afford a home in that community. This is not the case for many of these people. They work for our hospitals and education institutions but can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill. What I would like the faith community to know is that many of the people that we interact with, that our seniors interact with, that our kids interact with are not able to afford a home, what most people, including people of faith, would consider a basic human need.